I now understand the meaning of “restoration”

From: Ethan Cade Brimhall [mailto:ethan.brimhall@myldsmail.net]
Sent: Monday, July 17, 2017 9:29 AM

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

That is how my branch president greets the congregation every time he gets up at the pulpit. He is slowly infecting the rest of the branch. I decided I would try it out. Probably not going to do it again.

Okay so now I’m really fine. Honest. I promise I won’t have any kind of illness, physical or otherwise, for at least a couple of weeks. A modern prophet once said that the restoration is a continuous process. I think I experienced that this past week as mind, body, and spirit recovered from previous weeks of disrepair.

We tried to cook two dishes on Wednesday: goat peppe soup and some red kidney bean thing. They ended up both being edible with rice, so we didn’t starve this week. We’re evolving.

On Thursday, we had a meeting with our branch presidency and the district president. I guess the district president wants to have these meetings every month to make sure branches are doing well. There has been a lot of change and progress in the branch, but there are still some hurdles that will require a miracle to jump.

Did you know that Salt Lake City Mission headquarters is kinda dumb when they make the boundaries for branches here? On their maps, it says that my chapel resides in another branch’s area and I have another branch’s chapel in my own area. President Clawson asked me to identify the traditional boundaries so he can submit a boundary change request for the branch. I think he is going to have to redo all of Kenema because it’s an absolute mess.

Elder Kabosha and I have started teaching institute since the teacher has way too much work to do and a heart condition. They’ve gone so far as the introduction and that’s it. I’m not sure when it started or when it ends, but at least we’re having classes now. We’re running the choir, reactivating the Elders’ Quorum presidency, and now teaching institute. I’m also attempting to teach Elder Kabosha how to play the piano. I never knew missionaries had to be this versatile. I’d literally break down and die were the Lord not sustaining my every breath.

With all the stress, we’re bound to have some complications in our companionship. We’ve had to do a lot of talking. Thankfully, we’re both willing to work on our weaknesses and resolve our differences. Forgiveness is such a blessing. I’ve made a lot of offenses with my big mouth. We promised each other we would be more Christlike and obedient and argue less often. So far it has worked out really well.

There is a referral we contacted this week that seriously impressed me. Her name is Hawanatu. Her husband is a member staying in a different branch for now and he wanted us to teach her. I’ve gotten a little cynical, so whenever I receive a referral from a member who wants their family member to be baptized, I don’t expect any progress. Experience has shown me that is usually the case. Then again, expectations are stupid.

We popped in out of the blue and set a date for later in the week. When we called, she said she was in the hospital visiting someone, so we rescheduled. The second day we called, she said we were free to come. We met her receiving injections and IV treatment for Typhoid. Lots of needles. No one present enjoyed the situation, especially Hawanatu. She was stuck and couldn’t move anywhere with the IV bag attached to her arm, so it was the perfect time to talk. We had a nice discussion, got to know each other, Elder Kabosha gave her a Book of Mormon (most people already have the Bible), and we invited her to church.

The real surprise is, she came. She even brought her sister, Ruth. In gospel principles, they asked questions about the Book of Mormon. They admitted that when Elder Kabosha and I left, people told them all kinds of nasty things about the Church trying to discourage them from visiting us. They were told we don’t worship God, that we don’t use the Bible, that we won’t even mention Jesus Christ. They immediately found that all this was absolute nonsense.

In Relief Society, Hawanatu confessed that the first time we called and she said she wasn’t around was a lie because she didn’t want to talk to people who worship in such a way. However, the Spirit touched her heart and she felt that she needed to give us a chance. Leading up to Sunday, people continued to spout untruths, but she resolved to try it out despite the opposition. She was so glad she did. She and her sister happily invited us to come back on Tuesday and the Relief Society sisters loved them so much that they were all clamoring to join us for our visit.

Zone Conference was an absolute blast. I don’t think there has been a better one in the history of the mission. Three speakers were beyond inspired.

Elder Wheelock, one of the AP’s, referenced his time at BYU-Idaho in a Hebrew class. There is one Hebrew word, Zekor (guessing the anglicized spelling), that really impressed him. Hebrew is read from right to left, so I will write what each letter means in that order. Cut/pierce/blood flowing down. Hand. Nail. Head/leader. What does that sound like to you? To me, it sounded like the Atonement, so when Elder Wheelock asked us what we thought that word meant, my mind jumped right to that. Everyone who responded gave reasonable answers but were totally wrong. The Hebrew word actually means “to remember.” He went on to relate a time when the professor asked every class member what they would say/do if they had 5 minutes with the Savior. Many class members said some pretty profound things, but the professor’s was the most insightful of all. He said he would ask, “How did you do it? How did you press through that much suffering?” Right then, he felt the Spirit whisper to him, “Because I remembered you.” Imagine the internal struggle Jesus had to get through. The incredibly powerful and constant temptation to sink into oblivion as he is suffering for our sins and the thing that got Him through it all was remembering you. I’ve watched movies where people have suffered intense pain for others, but every one of us would immediately fail in our resolve if we were subjected to such a trial and given the ability to withstand death. Only Christ could do it, and you were His strength and motivation and reason for it. He remembered YOU.

Elder Izekor, the other AP, reported on their travels to seven new cities and villages that are opening up to missionaries soon. This is huge news because we currently only have four cities with missionaries. Conakry in Guinea and Koidu here in Sierra Leone open next week. Kailahun, Moriba Town, Moyamba, Mogbwemo, and Mosenesie will be ready before this year is over. He talked about the amazing faith of the people there. Only very few are baptized in each place, but everyone shares what they know with others. I think it’s in Mogbwemo where there are only 8 members but 70+ attend church every week. Investigators gather at the schoolhouse, the makeshift chapel, each day to plan routes for teaching other people about the restored gospel. In another village, the amputee paramount chief and his family are the only members, but they are actively working to convert the entire community. Similar things are happening in each city and village I mentioned. Elder Izekor said he gained a much greater appreciation for being a missionary and for the gospel he has as even the chief treated him with honor generally reserved for a great dignitary. To be honest, missionaries are authorized dignitaries for the Lord and when people recognize and honor who we are and what we have like that, they tend to show the greatest respect. Elder Izekor was astounded as this happened in each place he visited. His words stirred in me the question, “do I understand what I have and who I am?” I still have a lot to learn I think.

Sister Clawson spoke of how the Lord hallows a place before missionaries step foot there. I can’t accurately put into words what that meant to me, but as the Spirit spoke to me about what she said, I knew it was true. Each one of these new places is being touched by the Spirit of God in preparation for us. As missionaries, we need to remember the sacred nature of our calling. We can’t live in Babylon in our apartments and then expect to enter Zion when we go out to teach people. The Spirit is not a jacket you can take off and put back on whenever you feel like it. Missionary work requires consecration without consideration. As missionaries are more spread out over the country with the new areas opening up, it will no longer be possible for us to have a whole mission gathering. Some missionaries will not go to a zone conference or be around other missionaries for transfer time. We can’t afford to perform at the same level that we are now. These great new opportunities require greater commitment and service to God.

There are a few verses in the Book of Mormon that have always puzzled me to some degree. It’s in Moroni 7:46-48.

46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail–

47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.

I wondered why “if ye have not charity, ye are nothing.” I also wondered what it meant when it said that “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” As I pondered, this thought came to me:

If we do not have charity, the pure love of Christ, His sacrifice, imprinted upon us, we are nothing. Without the Atonement manifested in our countenances, we would be consigned to eternal damnation. We will see Christ as He is because we have become like Him, thus coming to know Him. We will understand Him. Charity is what gives us hope. It is total humility and acceptance of truth because of love. It is the vehicle by which Christ completed the Atonement.

Truly, it is life eternal to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent to save us. I’m eternally grateful for a loving God who wants me to know Him. He does not want to be a mystery to us. Quite the opposite, really. The pure in heart shall see God. I am thankful for my personal relationship with my Savior and my Father. I pray that all of us will strive to know and understand more the Being that created us and the Man that saved us. They really aren’t that far away.

Love,

Elder Brimhall

Excerpts from other letters…

My soccer ball finally died a couple weeks ago. I’m surprised it has lasted this long actually. It got some really good use. My shoes are totally fine still. The tips are a bit damaged because I keep tripping on rocks on these terrible roads, but the soles are fine and still comfortable. Socks are about to get some holes. I have enough reserve to finish my mission when they do. My shirts are still white as snow by some miracle. Pants are holding up just fine.

If you find any cool Christian a cappella music, please send it to me. Like BYU Vocal Point or Noteworthy or other stuff. I love it.

I don’t think I’ll come home the same kid that you dropped off outside the JKB at BYU. I’m sure you saw a few changes when I was home for a few weeks before coming here, but this is a new level.

To put everything in perspective, Starting out here, I expected to leave and come back to everything being the same, but it definitely won’t be. Never mind that my brother will be graduating high school and drives or that my old boss opened up a new optometry practice, I am different. If everything stayed exactly the same, it would still look different to me.

I am happy with the person I am and where I am headed. Even though things are hard literally all the time, I have inner peace. I am thankful for everything that has happened to me good or bad because it has taught me something. I can say the two most valuable things I have gained on my mission is an eternal perspective and a personal relationship with God. I would tell my brothers that the best mission preparation they can do is work towards those two things.

One promise I was given in my setting apart blessing was that I would appreciate my parents more than ever before. That comes to my mind at least once every week as being fulfilled. I thank God that I had parents who tried.

It might be my last week here. Or Elder Kabosha’s. We’ve both been here the same amount of time. But probably his unless something unexpected happens. I’m trying to keep up my spirits at least for this last week of the transfer.